It wasn’t the car alarm going off that woke the Hutton family up at 2am on Sunday morning, it was a series of loud bangs.
“From the front window of our house we could see huge flames in the driveway, but we couldn’t tell what was on fire,” says Trent Hutton. “Then the fire turned into explosions, and we all went down into the basement and I called 9-11.”
Hutton says members of the Bowen Island Fire Department were at the scene within fifteen minutes.
“They were great they put it out right away,” says Hutton. “But they didn’t say much as there wasn’t much for them to look at. Thankfully they got there when they did, because already my truck, which was right beside the burning car, got half melted. The fire could’ve caught on to one of the nearby cedars and it very easily could’ve spread.”
Cpl. Paulo Arreaga with the Bowen Island RCMP says he came following a call from a concerned neighbour who’d heard the noise, and arrived just after fire chief Ian Thompson but before the crew of fire fighters.
“The car was fully engulfed in flames,” says Arreaga. “As soon as the fire department put it out, I did a thorough inspection of the area. There was nothing that made me think this was a case of arson.”
Arreaga says his initial thought was that there were probably “critters” chewing on wires under the hood, which could have caused sparks and led to a fire.
“I did call forensics to see if they could investigate, but as the car had melted down to its frame – any part of it that could burn, did – they said there was no way they could get any evidence from that,” says Arreaga.
Later on that morning, however, the RCMP got another call.
“An individual who had been in the same area, Old Eaglecliff, early Sunday morning had been visiting a friend and said that upon returning to her car, noticed that someone had been in it,” says Arreaga. “She said nothing was stolen, but things had been moved around and then she saw a burn mark about the size of a softball on one of the seats. So, that’s definitely a case of mischief or maybe even arson. And it is definitely suspicious that it happened in the same area around the same time as the other car fire. Unfortunately, by the time this individual made the report, she had already driven the car and moved things around so it is very unlikely we could get any forensic evidence.”
Arreaga says that no witnesses have come forward, but he’s still hoping someone in the area might have seen something.
As for the Hutton’s, they’ve spent days on the phone with ICBC, Kia and doing internet research trying to figure out what to do next.
“I just really need to know why our car caught fire and exploded,” says Trent. “If it’s arson, it is really scary that someone in our community randomly torched our vehicle. If it was some kind of manufacturing defect, well that’s really scary too and it means that people’s lives are at risk.”
In his initial talks with ICBC, Trent said that they rejected the idea of conducting an investigation as it would cost $6,000. Also, they refused to pay out the insurance money unless the Hutton’s gave up the car’s remains.
“In this case, the car would go straight to the wrecker’s and we would never get to find out the reason it caught fire,” says Hutton. “Now, ICBC has agreed to hold the vehicle for a short duration while we try to source an independent inspector, and ICBC will proceed with the claim. If we can find a forensics engineer at an “affordable” rate, ICBC may assist us with the covering that cost.”
Hutton adds that, while he is glad to have made some progress with ICBC, he feels both the insurance company and Kia Motors should be doing more to figure out what happenened.